Review: World Poker Championship (Game Boy Advance)

In this review, we bet the farm in the Game boy Advance game World Poker Championship. We find out how well this gambling game plays.

This game was released in 2004 and is one of a number of ports.

There’s no real story behind this game. You are simply another poker player hoping to make it big. You are greeted by someone who gives you a $5,000 voucher to start your quest to, well, win money and that’s about it.

As it turns out, the real goal of this game is to earn $10,000,000. This is the maximum amount of cash you can earn. AS you win cash, you get to unlock more and more icons that seemingly gives you nothing other than a sentence or two when selected. After you unlock them all and get the maximum amount of cash, you get, well, nothing. You can keep playing and watch your total either drop down or stay at $10,000,000, start a new game, or simply stop playing altogether.

You start off at the Wild Corral Casino. An additional location is a place to get a loan for more cash. The other casino’s are the Amazon casino, a space themed casino, and a luxury casino (the names don’t appear that often). The real difference between the casino’s is that the betting denominations change and the number of poker tournament rounds increase. The main poker championship appears in the space themed casino for whatever reason. Beyond that, the differences between casino’s is looks and some of the computer opponents you meet.

Each casino has a number of Poker games. This includes 7 Card Stud, Five Card Draw, Texas hold ’em, tournament Texas Hold ’em, Video Poker, black jack and slots. The only reason I can think of why a slot machine game and black jack would be in a Poker game is for variety, but beyond that, it is a bit odd to feature slots in a Poker video game (blackjack does have a feature that actually is useful in this game).

The basic rules of poker do apply in these games. This mainly revolves around rankings more than anything else. When you get to the actual poker games, this is where the rules start getting a little funky.

One of the funky rules is that if a player moves all in, the only additional bets that can be made after are calling. This despite the different chip stacks and how many players are still in the hand. When you do decide to ship all your chips, the game actually limits you to betting the same amount as the smallest stack on the table still in the hand. I’m not exactly sure what kind of ruleset these poker rules match, but it almost sounds like a strange hybrid of pot limit and no limit more than anything else.

Another funky rule is that you may never see the hole cards of your opponents even if you bet and call on the river in Texas Hold ’em. If you are an experienced poker, this is probably a big head scratcher. Instead, all you see are the players best five card hand. So, the two worst cards will remain a mystery and you can see who had the best hand. Similar rule applies to 7 card stud and Omaha.

The thing is, if you are developing your playing skills for poker, seeing hole cards can easily add valuable insight into how players bet. If you are able to make it all the way to the river and call with a few players still in the pot, you can actually visualize the betting lines they took and formulate your strategies from here. Obscuring this bit of information only serves to make developing this part of your poker strategy a bit tougher.

One of the possibly more understandable rules is that you can only see your opponents exposed cards in 7 card stud when betting. This seems to have to do with screen size because it might be a bit difficult to show 28 cards on the screen when you have a Game Boy Advance. Compounding the problem is that about a third of the screen is used up by the opponents avatars. so, it’s annoying, but understandable in this case.

The non-tournament poker games is largely cash games while the tournament plays based off of standard poker tournament rules, sort of. You play a series of rounds that are four handed. The bigger the tournament and payout, the more rounds. You must defeat every opponent on the table to advance to the next round. In the next round, you face three additional opponents with an identical stack. Beat every round and you’ll be a champion. So, it’s a bit like heads up tournaments, only it’s four handed.

I’m sure players with more poker experience than me can pick up on other differences, but those are the big differences that I saw. Otherwise, the rules seem to be similar to regular poker rules for the most part.

A notable feature in this game, at least in the games that have opponents, is that you can see your opponents. While this may seem like a fluff feature at first, the visuals can actually give players valuable information while playing. If opponents show frustration or anxiety, then they probably only have a high card. If, however, they are happy or excited, then they probably have at least a pair in their hand. This applies if, say, the board pairs. This obviously isn’t all that reliable in real life, but in this game, you are pretty much showered with poker tells.

As for the computer AI, it can take a bit to figure out their strategy, but they are, for the most part quite easy. So, if you are new to poker or don’t have a lot of experience, this game is not a bad choice in terms of difficulty. More experienced players, however, will likely pick apart the AI and stack them all like no tomorrow. Generally speaking, these opponents rarely fold. They do fold every once in a while, but for the most part, they do stay in hands they clearly have no business being in.

An example of this is if the board contains 3 diamonds and you have an Ace high Flush, feel free to move all in. The opponents left in the hand will call you with a pair of 2’s without hesitation. I’ve even had hands with top two pair and opponents call big my bets with king high. Things like this can be easily exploitable because if you have the nuts, the sky is the limit with how much you can rake in.

Just be aware that big hands do come a bit more frequently then one would expect in four handed play. So, there is a good reason to play a bit tight for four handed play. Three of a Kind, straights, flushes, and Full Houses do frequently pop up. Until you find yourself heads up, you might want to play as if you are 7 or 8 handed.

On the other side, there are plenty of droughts you can experience. The best you can do is just wait them out. Like most poker games, patience tends to pay off big. You can easily finally obtain two pair and ship your chips only to get stacked by trips or an even bigger two pair.

One final note, it’s possible to win huge in various poker tournaments. This is especially true for the world poker tournament where the payout is $2.5 million. The thing is, there are faster ways of obtaining cash. That is through Black Jack. Like other non-tournament live games, Black Jack is also a cash game. The thing is, when you leave a casino, you can “save” via the carded password. So, you can “save” your game, re-enter, and bet all your cash on a single hand of black jack. If you win, you double your money. Lose and just “reload”. While a less exciting way to win the max amount of cash, once you start getting into 7 figures, you can simply employ this method to hit the cap faster.

One thing I will criticize this game about is the use of the term “bet the farm”. If you bet all of your money, you have to select the “bet the farm” icon. Personally, I don’t like the term and prefer “all-in”. The terminology isn’t necessarily wrong, but it’s not the greatest in my view either. I think they should just stick to the classic “all-in” more than anything else.

Another problem I have with this game is the constant modification of the rules. I’m not familiar with any of the games not having something altered in some weird way. Video poker has some odd rules. Slots is incredibly simplified to three icons. Rules surrounding all in for live play. Why modify these rules so much? A lot of the changes don’t really make a whole lot of sense to me.

Additionally, the game handles folding poorly. If you fold, you cannot see how the hand develops for the rest of the players. Instead, you skip straight to the end and the game puts in big bold letters “YOU LOSE!” It’s technically correct to say you lose the hand, but are you really losing when you are simply saving yourself chips in the long run by folding? Folding 8 2 off pre-flop four handed is not a bad move, but the game does make you feel like you made a horrible decision. Encouraging players to play every hand to the last street makes for some bad players in my view.

Having said that, I am a fan of there being at least one poker game out there that is very easy. If you want to make a game that can encourage new players to at least play the game, a game with easy opponents is certainly a way to do it. Throwing new players to the wolves will only tell outsiders that this game is not for them full stop. While this game doesn’t offer players full information, it does a good job at giving players a feel for what poker is like. A distorted feel perhaps, but it’s better than nothing.

Generally speaking, this game does simulate poker to a reasonable degree. The opponents are easy and the rules are a bit distorted, but it is welcoming to new players. A lot of problems wind up being small, but there certainly a lot of them. The more experience you have with poker, the more issues you can easily find. If you’re new to poker, I’m not convinced it would necessarily matter quite so much because it is more than possible to develop some very basic strategies. So, a reasonable game all around.

Graphically speaking, this game doesn’t really offer much. It can give some reasonable casino designs even if the selection of a game is a bit convoluted. The opponents and animation sequences are OK, but nothing to really brag about. As for the cards, they are reasonably sized, but I think the table layout leaves a lot to be desired. The overall layout could have been a lot better. In addition to this, there are no special effects or even an end game scene to speak of. So, while passable, it’s nothing special.

Meanwhile, the audio is passable, but nothing huge. The music does provide some OK atmosphere, but I wouldn’t get all that excited about it. There are some basic voice samples and various grunts and other reactions in the game. That interestingly enough, does a fair bit to save this game because it punctuates the opponents reactions. So, that part of the game is reasonable, but nothing exciting.

Overall, if you are a novice poker player, this game might be a pretty reasonable game to play. A caveat is that there are a fair number of altered rules that simply don’t exist elsewhere. So, you will get a distorted view of poker, but you will also get the opportunity to experience poker without the intimidation factor a lot of other versions have (i.e. World Series of Poker). If you have a fair bit of poker experience, then it’s easy to pick apart the various flaws. The graphics are nothing huge and the audio is passable. So, an OK game – especially if you are new to poker.

Score

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 66%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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